Learning from Mistakes, the first of two semesters in Paris Past Review

By (International Business., Western Washington University) - abroad from 09/04/2011 to 05/26/2012 with

ISA Study Abroad in Paris, France

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Besides the obvious - improving my French, being independent - I learned a lot about myself in my time abroad. I didn't think I would feel drastically changed in an academic year abroad, but I do. Going to Paris for a year was the most challenging, best decision I ever made and I strongly encourage anyone to study in another country. You'll never look at the world in the same way again.

Review Photos

International Studies Abroad (ISA): Paris - French Language & Liberal Arts at Catholic University of Paris Photo International Studies Abroad (ISA): Paris - French Language & Liberal Arts at Catholic University of Paris Photo

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: American Business School Paris (ABS) L'Institut Catholique de Paris
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The American Business School Paris was not a good fit for me. Although the work was not challenging, I found that there was an awful lot of busy work to take home. The professors (for the most part) were disorganized and I felt that the "degree-seeking students" (those not doing a study abroad program) were unfriendly and disrespectful of both their peers and their professors. I was not impressed with the school, so much so that I switched universities in Paris halfway through my academic year.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I absolutely adored the ISA Paris staff, particularly the first semester. I had a number of problems and basically turned my whole program around and ISA was more than willing to help and talk me through everything. They are all friendly and kind. I wish I had spent more time at the office getting to know them all a little better.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

For the first semester, I lived in a homestay with an elderly French woman. It was an uncomfortable experience. There was a distinct feeling of dislike for myself and my roommate (but more obviously my roommate) the whole semester. She yelled at us for not speaking French, but then would refuse to help us learn. I was disappointed in the experience, as improving my French was the only reason I did the homestay option.

* Food:

For the most part, my host mother cooked decent, albeit very unhealthy, food. After three months, all I wanted was some vegetables! We were always given a glass of wine or two at dinner, which I discovered was not common among the other homestay families. Around Paris, the food is amazing. I will always miss the fresh baguettes and amazing cheeses!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Although I was in school with many French speaking students, the school was very segregated and I didn't make any real connections with locals. Part of this is my doing, however. ISA scheduled several events where we would meet up with French students, but it was intimidating for me to put myself out there in another language.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had no real issues with my health while abroad. In the times I came down with a cold, my host mother would offer me cough medicine or other basic needs. There were no specific vaccines that I had to take to travel to France. The only real time I dealt with the system was doing the OFII examination, which was silly and much too expensive, in my opinion.

* Safety:

I never once felt unsafe in Paris. Yes, there were still nights that I walked home faster than usual - but I would do that in my own small hometown. Paris is a large city, and if you treat it like a large city and use common sense, there is no reason why you shouldn't be absolutely safe. Keep your bag close to you, don't let it sit open on the metro. And usually, it's best not to make eye contact. ISA will tell you these things, too. Don't let Paris scare you - conquer it instead.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I would say living in Paris is not conducive to a student budget, but having planned for this trip for many years I was not exactly watching my spending throughout the weeks. Watching others struggling with finances, I would say that whatever amount of money you think you absolutely NEED to bring, double it.

* Was housing included in your program cost? Yes
* Was food included in your program cost? Yes
Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 100+ euros
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? For food, a baguette sandwich from the boulangerie is often less expensive than anything from Monoprix. And it tastes a million times better. Don't save your money on food though. Part of living in France is enjoying the French cuisine. Have at least one great French meal in your time abroad. For travel, find good websites that offer cheap flights. I think the best way to save money is to just be flexible in all things. And unless you are a huge shopper/fashionista, bring more clothes than they tell you to bring! Shopping is the most expensive thing you do in Paris.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

ISA pushed us to speak French, but since we were at an AMERICAN school, they spoke to us in English quite a bit. The school, of course, didn't encourage French except in the French language course.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Intermediate French - FREN 203
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Be brave. Ask for help in the language and show that you're not just a silly American. Not only will the Parisians appreciate your efforts, you might get a smile from them! Go to your nearest boulangerie, become a regular, and banter with the baker. That's where most of my best conversations in French came from. :)

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Excursions
  • Planned activities
* What could be improved?
  • Better homestay families
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew how much I was going to miss Paris once I was gone.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!